Governors had agreed the deal for Nye Rowlands, principal of Manchester College of Arts and Technology, who wanted to leave on March 31. An advertisement for a new principal was placed in The TES. But prospective candidates who applied were told: "Sorry, the position in no longer available. "
Chairman Gordon Conquest had left for the Canaries when the personnel sub-committee meeting resulted in what one source described as "an unholy row". The lucrative deal gave Mr Rowlands post-retirement employment sharpening up the college distance-learning and multimedia work, areas he helped to shape.
An appeal for help to the Association for Principals of Colleges, of which he was a leading light and president, would not receive a favourable response. Mr Rowlands fell out with his fellow principals when he broke post-incorporation ranks, doing a pay deal with the college lecturers' union NATFHE, and shaking hands in public with its general secretary, John Akker.
He would probably take as a compliment the comments of staff and governors at MANCAT who insisted that he was too valuable to let go. But Mr Rowlands was not available for comment as The TES went to press.
If Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, postpones proposed early retirement reforms until September, the governors may relent. Otherwise, he is in place until at least 1998.